Policy

Sen.-Elect Harris Hiring Black Legislative Director

Longtime Bill Nelson aide Clint Odom appears to be only African-American Senate legislative director

Sen.-elect Kamala Harris, D-California, is staffing up her new Senate office. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen.-elect Kamala Harris is tapping a veteran Senate aide to oversee her office’s legislative business.

Clint Odom, a longtime aide to Florida Sen. Bill Nelson with both the Commerce Committee and in the senator’s personal office, appears poised to be the only black legislative director in the Senate, according to Senate aides who track minority hiring.

“I’m thrilled that Clint has decided to join our team and I look forward to our work together,” Harris said in a statement announcing the hire. “He will be an invaluable asset to me and the people of California as we fight for the ideals of this nation.”

Harris, the outgoing California attorney general, was elected to succeed Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is retiring at the end of the Congress.

Odom practiced law in Washington, D.C., and clerked for a federal district judge in Mississippi before arriving in the Senate. He most recently worked for Nelson as the general counsel and policy director on the minority side of the Commerce, Science and Transportation panel, having particular experience in telecommunications both with the Federal Communications Commission and in the private sector.

Hiring Odom for the legislative director post is notable in part because of the general lack of diversity among senior Senate staff. Current black Senate staffers have made a push to increase diversity among their ranks.

Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the incoming minority leader, is backing the effort to adopt a resolution creating a nonpartisan office tasked with improving diversity among Senate aides.

A December 2015 report found seven legislative directors in personal offices were members of minority groups, though none of them were African-American. There is no official data available on staff diversity.

The hiring news follows the appointments by Harris of Chief of Staff Nathan Barankin and State Director Julie Chavez Rodriguez.

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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